The basketball legend now has four titles, winning Finals MVP in each of those championship wins. At age 35, he has continued to defy expectations in every way. So why should LeBron James have to keep demanding that he get his “damn respect”?
LeBron James is doing things at 35 years old that many of his peers could only dream of accomplishing at such an age.
After winning game six of the NBA Finals on Sunday night to clinch his fourth championship and the LA Lakers‘ 17th, James became the first player in NBA history to win the Finals and Finals MVP on three different teams (Heat, Cavaliers and Lakers).
It was a week to remember for LeBron, who averaged 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists over the six game 2020 Finals series, including 59 percent shooting from the field, a scorching 41.7 percent mark from three and a triple-double in the series-clinching game. It’s difficult to imagine asking for more from the Lakers’ team leader and top superstar, especially given unprecedented nature of the NBA bubble.
The Lakers were driven and destined to win it all following the devastating loss of Kobe Bryant to a helicopter accident back in January. LeBron James and the Lakers delivered as promised.
Why, then, does LeBron still need to demand his “damn respect too”? Hasn’t he done enough to cement his legacy as one of the titans of the game? One would assume The King’s stacked resume isn’t an entity in question.
In regards to the “GOAT” debate, which is likely the source of LeBron’s respect comments, there will always be Michael Jordan loyalists. Those of the belief that “MJ” was the greatest basketball player who ever lived, going 6-0 in the finals, winning MVP in each of those series as well as never letting a Finals get past the sixth game.
Certainly, a convincing argument can be made on behalf of Jordan as the game’s greatest player.
Some might even argue the late Kobe Bryant, who went 5-0 in the Finals himself, is deserving of the “greatest basketball player of all time” mantra.
Mostly though, the “GOAT” debate has settled around Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
I’ve never been a proponent of the MJ-LeBron debate. The two all-time talents played different positions in different eras for different teams, after all. Both also have different playing styles. And yes, Michael Jordan had a flawless Finals record as compared to LeBron’s 4-6 mark.
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Overall, though, the claim can be made that Michael Jordan and LeBron James actually have more dissimilarities rather than commonalities.
One thing they do share, however, is their penchant for greatness.
In his era, Michael Jordan reached the finals six times in seven years, three-peating twice in the process. LeBron appeared in eight straight finals during the 2010s and nine years out of a possible 10 during the decade, winning four championships in that span. Both represent incredible, unprecedented streaks for their times and among their respective contemporaries.
King James may never be the greatest player of all time in the minds of some. And that’s perfectly acceptable because fans, like players, are influenced by the times in which they watch or play.
But one can idolize Michael Jordan while still admiring the career oeuvre of LeBron James. Consider what LeBron has accomplished on the court in ending title droughts in two cities, Cleveland and Los Angeles.
James also dethroned the greatest team of all time by regular season record, the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors, by coming back from down three games to one in the Finals, Draymond Green suspension aside.
Not to mention, all of the social justice and philanthropic efforts that LeBron has been heavily involved in by taking advantage of his immense platform and influence to spread messages of widespread change and action.
With all things being equal, why can’t we live in a world where Michael Jordan continues to assume his legendary status while also allowing for LeBron James to get his “damn respect”? Haven’t both No. 23’s earned the right to these privileges?
I’ve never understood the LeBron hate. It’s almost as if James has done something to personally affect Michael Jordan fans just because he’s also had a prolific career, one that at least merits some discussion among the greatest ever.
Whatever your position is on LeBron and his respectability factor, one thing is for certain: a spot in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame is awaiting his celebrated arrival.